The rainbow was filled once more with love, hope and generosity. It only lacked four more colours to bring it back to life.
The colours played across Alastair and Isabelle’s faces as they sat and gazed up at the arcs of red, orange and yellow.
“Green, now,” said Alastair.
“Well, at least that’s not so hard,” said Isabelle. “Green is the colour of life and growing things.”
“Yes,” said Alastair slowly, “But it means we might have to go in there.”
He pointed down the valley into the distance where it seemed as ocean of trees stood sentry, looming over the neatly planted fields.
“Oh,” said Isabelle. “I suppose you are right.”
“I think we had better speak to Old Jack before we go in there,” suggested Alastair.
The children gathered fresh fruit and seeds from their garden and went in search of the Green Man.
Old Jack had been taking care of the trees long before anyone could remember. Their parents spoke of him with amusement as a crazy old man, but the children’s grandparents spoke of him with awe. They said he was connected with the life of the trees and every year farmers brought offerings to him in the hope of a good harvest.
The children stood silently on the edge of a grove of ancient trees. On each trunk a face was carved and the shadows made them move as if alive. Quietly, the children laid their offerings down in the centre of the circle and stood back to wait.
They jumped in surprise as they heard a voice right behind them, “It is not time for sowing or reaping,” said an old man bent almost double on his stick. “Why have you come?”
“It’s him,” whispered Alastair, “Say something!”
Isabelle stammered, “Greetings Old One, I am Isabelle and this is Alastair. We have come to seek your advice.”
“Hmm,” said the old man with twinkling eyes, “It is nice to see that some of the young still want to hear the words of an old man.”
Alastair stepped forward, “We are trying to save the rainbow and we have to go into the Old Forest to find the First Tree so we may ask for help to bring green life back into the spirit of the land.”
“A noble cause,” replied the Green Man, “But surely not a quest for ones so young? The Old Forest is a dark place and filled with danger.”
“We know,” said Isabelle quickly, “But we are the only ones who still keep the rainbow in our hearts. If we do nothing because we are scared, the rainbow will die and the land will go with it.”
“Come with me,” said the Old Man, “The First Tree is deep within the Old Forest, protected by the ranks of others who feel deeply the pain caused by man. They do not take kindly to visitors. I will show you the path, but you must keep your goal true in your heart or you will never come out.”
He led them to the edge of the trees and said, “I can come no further, find the Wishing Tree and wish for the squirrel to come. He will aid you further, for he is the eyes and ears of the First Tree.”
The pathway was narrow and seemed to disappear into the dark. The children emptied their minds of fear and filled their hearts with light. They stepped hand in hand into the dark ready to take each step one by one.
The trees crowded them, branches reaching for their arms, leaves rustling with anger and distrust.
“Stop this!” shouted Isabelle, “We’re trying to help. We’re not going away. We have to find the Wishing Tree to save the rainbow and the First Tree. If you don’t let us through the whole land will perish.”
The trees fell silent and slowly the path appeared again leading them to the banks of a well that sprung from the centre of the earth.
A willow tree bent her slender arms down to trail in the silvery water.
All over the branches were faded ribbons made before the forest closed its doors to man.
“Look at all these wishes,” said Alastair, “There must be thousands of them.”
Isabelle untied the ribbon from her hair and said, “Now we must make our own wish. Are you ready?”
As they gently tied the ribbon around a branch, the children said, “Please help us save the rainbow and find the First Tree.”
They sat down on the mossy ground and Alastair put his arm around his sister.
The wind whispered and the Wishing Tree stirred. The children sat up straighter and wished with all their might.
Through the leaves a little face appeared. Small and brown with neat little whiskers and bright knowing eyes.
“Shh,” said Isabelle, “Don’t scare him away.”
“It would take more than two small children to scare me!” said the little squirrel coming to sit at Isabelle’s knee. “What do you have for me?” he asked.
“Would you like some nuts?” asked Alastair pouring out a small bag he kept in his pocket.
“They’ll do,” sniffed the squirrel stuffing them into his mouth.
He scampered to the edge of the clearing and waited, “Are you coming or not?” he asked.
The children looked at each other and almost giggled, the squirrel looked so funny with his mouth full and his tail bristling with indignation.
They followed the squirrel deeper into the forest. The giant trees whispered to each other, but none moved to stop them.
Finally they came to the very centre of the Old Forest. The squirrel stopped and said, “I have brought you this far, but I warn you, he has slept for many hundreds of years. I do not know if you can rouse him from his dreams.”
“We have to try,” said Alastair, sounding much braver than he felt.
Isabelle and Alastair walked towards the huge ash tree. Its trunk was wider than their arms stretched out together and it soared high into the sky disappearing above them.
The children placed their hands on the scarred and ancient bark and began to sing.
“Wake from your dreams, Father Tree
Hear the song we sing for thee
Your roots grow deep
Your branches high
From the heart of earth
To the blue of the sky
Hold us in your mighty arms
Keep us save from those that harm
Share your wisdom so we may too
Learn to be as wise as you.”
Their voices soared through the quiet leaves of the great tree, stirring them to life. Green shoots appeared bursting through the soil and the squirrel chattered with glee as he raced high into the branches.
“You have woken me from pleasant dreams,
Off a world covered in a shroud of green.
Your kind wounds with shafts of steel
And I must sleep and dream to heal.
Now, what do you seek to ask of me?”
“Great Tree,” said Alastair, “Your sister the rainbow, has lost her colours and we seek your help to aid her. Without your green life she cannot be born again and blossom as she is meant to do.”
“Too long has it been since I saw her face,
Her smile, her light and felt her grace.
I will give you what you need,
A fruit of life’s eternal seed.”
The squirrel danced out of the leaves and returned to the children with three glowing seeds. “You must hurry,” he said, “For his light grows dim. His life is tied to hers and should she pass from the sky his grief will rend the world asunder.”
The children gathered the seeds and the trees parted before them. A mighty wind rose through the leaves and carried them through the forest and out into the valley.
The Green Man was waiting for them, but he looked even older and frailer than before.
“What has happened?” the children asked.
” I am old,” he answered, “And my trees are failing.”
“Here,” said Alastair, “Take one of these to the glade and plant it there. It will bring new life.”
The old man took one of the seeds in his hand and gazed upon it with wonder.
“You have succeeded where all others have failed. This is a mighty gift indeed.” with that he turned and disappeared into the failing light of the day.
As the children walked back through the last of the trees they heard a cry.
They ran quickly towards the sound and at the base of the last of the trees, covered in leaves they found a newborn baby.
Isabelle picked up the little girl and cradled her gently. “We must find a home for her, we cannot leave her here.”
Alastair thought hard and smiled, “I know where to take her,” he said.
“Remember the couple over the hill, they will love this one with all their hearts.”
Isabelle placed a seed into the child’s hand and they hurried to the small stone house and knocked on the door.
The young man who opened the door looked gray with grief for his wife had lost their child before it could be born and his heart was heavy with sadness.
“What is it?” he asked, “My wife is ill and I fear she will follow our child into the next world. I cannot speak with you long.”
Isabelle handed him the tiny little girl and he looked at her with tears in his eyes.
“Who is this?” he asked.
“This is Ashia. Her name means life and hope. She is a gift from the earth for you.” said Isabelle.
The young man hurried into the house and the children watched as he handed the babe to his wife where she lay pale and ashen.
The baby reached out to the woman and the seed dropped into her open hand. Immediately the cottage was filled with green light and the baby’s laughter rang out pure and true.
The young couple were filled with joy and thanked the children from the bottom of their hearts.
“You have given us new life,” the young woman said, “I will plant this seed on the grave of my unborn child so all might know that from the deepest loss, new life can be born.”
They planted the last seed at the base of the rainbow and poured some of the water from the wishing well on to the ground.
Immediately, small green shoots burst from the seed growing and twining around the arc of the rainbow covering it with green growing leaves.
As the Rainbow glowed with new life the children realised they were not alone. Old Jack, the Green Man stood with them, the squirrel on his shoulder.
He smiled and said, “The old should never underestimate the young. The First Tree is filled with joy to see his sister born again. My time is almost over, but yours has just begun.”
Sacred groves and trees appear across cultures all over the world. Yggdrasil is the Tree of the World that appears in Norse mythology. A giant ash, it connects the nine worlds, from the underworld to the heavens. In Celtic mythology sacred groves or nemetons were tended to by the druids.
The Green Man or Jack in the Green is a popular motif across Europe. He is the pagan symbol of fertility and nature.
For the other chapters in the story please link below:
Part one - The rainbow
Part two - Red
Part three - Orange
Part four - Yellow